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Entering Its Element: An Exclusive Q&A With Mike O’Shaughnessy

Element Electronics, the budget-friendly TV manufacturer with a patriotic bent, is planning a more aggressive push into consumers’ homes this fall. The company launched its first national TV campaign on Sept. 3, tied to college football and starring Heisman Trophy winner and Fox Sports analyst Matt Leinart. The campaign, which will also include online banners and TV giveaways, will include an Element-branded, on-air integration on Fox Sports called, “Right Moves with Matt Leinart,” featuring Leinart breaking down the best college football plays of the week.

The Winnsboro, S.C.-headquartered Element was founded in 2007 by Mike O’Shaughnessy as an exclusive Circuit City consumer electronics brand. O’Shaughnessy had previously served as CEO of Polaroid Consumer Electronics, and also spent 12 years with Frigidaire.

Element shifted its focus solely to TVs In 2011, and began testing U.S.-based TV assembly two years later. In 2014, Element officially opened — in partnership with Walmart — what it hailed as the United States’ only mass-production TV assembly factory.

The company debuted its first Ultra HD and smart TVs last year, and it currently offers 25 different models in three series, with screen sizes ranging from 19 to 65 inches and average selling prices from $100 to $1,000. In addition to Walmart, Element TVs are also sold through Target, Meijer and other retailers.

TWICE recently caught up with O’Shaughnessy, who holds the CEO title, over email to discuss the company’s upcoming plans, including its potential entry into new categories.

TWICE: What led Element to launch its first national TV campaign?

In the simplest terms, it was time for Element Electronics to introduce ourselves more formally to consumers and tell them what we stand for: “Amazing Technology, Affordably Priced.” Since our launch in 2007, we have allowed our products and price points to do the talking for us. The national television spots are a natural, intelligent expansion of our ongoing efforts.

TWICE: Is this part of a multi-pronged approach to grow market share? If so, what are some other efforts we can expect?

In many ways, we don’t think about market share from the traditional point of view. Of course we want to grow, but our customer and consumer relationships are what matter most to us. So, yes, the advertising campaign is part of a multipronged approach — and our approach is to keep the promises we make to our customers and consumers.

TWICE: Who is the targeted consumer for an Element TV?

Our targeted consumer is really any consumer who does not enter into the marketplace with an absolute pre-determined brand choice. Meaning, we understand that there are consumers who will, as an example, only buy a Samsung television — and we understand that Samsung has earned that loyalty. However, many millions of consumers enter the marketplace prepared to make their decision based on a different set of criteria and we believe that Element’s promise of “Amazing Technology, Affordably Priced” speaks clearly to many of them.

TWICE: As prices for 4K models drop, do you see Element competing in the Ultra HD space? Does it currently offer any 4K models?

Element presently offers many Ultra HD models and our assortment of models with UHD will be expanded in 2017.

TWICE: Does Element plan to incorporate such advanced video technologies as HDR?

Element is absolutely committed to technologies that enhance the consumer experience. We believe HDR is one of these. For Element, these decisions are typically more about “when” vs. “if” and we rely primarily on our brand promise, market data and trusted retail partners to help us make these decisions.

TWICE: Have you expanded into Blu-ray Disc players or other video adjuncts? Entered any categories beyond video?

Element is first and foremost a television company. In addition, we have a wide-ranging product strategy that includes expansion into products that are naturally complementary to television, like soundbars. We are also exploring new technologies, such as AR/VR and IoT. We want our brand to be important to consumers as their habits and lifestyles evolve — and we are investing in that future.

TWICE: What is the greatest challenge currently facing the company? How about its most recent success?

We don’t think about it as a challenge, but rather as a great opportunity to connect with consumers in an authentic way. Recognizing that our world is dynamic and ever-changing, we strive to evolve with our consumers by creating relevant products for their lifestyle and engaging them in relevant ways in our marketing. A recent win for us has been our partnership with Fox Sports.

TWICE: How do you respond to claims that your products aren’t truly made in America, given that they’re sub-assembled from offshore components?

Actually, we have never made any claim that our TVs are “Made in America.” Several models of our televisions are “Assembled in America” and we are unique in that fact. The reality of our industry is that there are not any television parts manufactured in the USA. So, we must import parts to our Winnsboro, SC assembly facility. Beyond that, the men and women of Element — American workers — are proudly assembling TVs and competing quite well in a global economy that would have people believe what American workers cannot do versus what Element knows American workers can do.

TWICE: Are there any private-label programs that you OEM?

With the exception of some international business, Element does not produce any private-label products.

TWICE: How can you remain competitive with Asian brands given U.S. workers’ higher wages?

Competitiveness goes well beyond the cost of labor. Labor is only one part of a very complex cost to value equation. Hopefully our ongoing competitiveness will open some eyes and change some beliefs about this subject. In the meantime, one should continue to expect to see Element working hard to dominate the intersection where “Amazing Technology” meets “Affordably Priced” products and services.